Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Damien PURNELL

Inquest into the Death of Damien PURNELL


Delivered on : 4 November 2020

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : Coroner Linton

Recommendations :N/A

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : At the time of his death Mr Purnell was a serving prisoner at Bunbury Regional Prison. He had a long history of using illicit drugs. Mr Purnell died on 19 August 2018 from organ failure following cardiorespiratory impairment, in a man with arteriosclerotic heart disease and recent use of drugs.

On 17 August 2018, Mr Purnell was released from his cell at 7.30am. He collected a gratuities check at some stage and was given his last dose of methadone and Lyrica at 8.10 am. Mr Purnell’s cellmate recalled Mr Purnell usually looked “drunk” after receiving his methadone, and he appeared the same on this occasion. The prison was placed into lockdown and Mr Purnell was placed in his cell. He appeared fine and was smiling. Mr Purnell’s cell mate advised Mr Purnell was sitting at a table playing Xbox and smoking when the cell mate went to sleep.

Two prison officers went to collect Mr Purnell at about 11.00 am as he was scheduled to attend court via a video link. When the officers entered the cell Mr Purnell was found collapsed on his bunk. He was not breathing. Prison staff commenced CPR and called for an ambulance to attend. Mr Purnell was taken by ambulance to the Bunbury Regional Hospital where resuscitation was continued before Mr Purnell was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. His prognosis was poor. On 19 August 2018 Mr Purnell’s condition deteriorated and testing confirmed he was brain dead.

A post mortem examination found evidence of pre-existing heart disease and toxicology analysis detected synthetic cannabinoids as well as methadone. A police and prison investigation found a smoking implement and synthetic cannabinoids in Mr Purnell’s cell and information was obtained that Mr Purnell often smoked Kronic, although it was unclear how he obtained it in prison. The use of Kronic was believed to have caused Mr Purnell to have a cardiac arrhythmia which led to his death.

The Coroner was satisfied Mr Purnell received a high standard of supervision, treatment and care while being held in Bunbury Prison.

Catch Words : Kronic : cardiovascular disease : long term illicit drug use : natural causes


Last updated: 15-Dec-2020

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